By Judy Christie
The iconic 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, better known as the “Six Triple Eight,” will be honored with a Congressional Gold Medal after President Joe Biden signs bipartisan legislation passed last week.
The pioneering unit was the only all-African American Women’s Army Corps battalion to serve overseas in World War II. Of the more than 850 women who cleared up a backlog of millions of pieces of mail that had led to a decline in troop morale, only six are living.
“I wish more of the 6888th members were here, and I hope that I’m still here when President Biden signs the bill,” said Lena King, 6888th veteran. “That will be a great day.”
Col. Edna W. Cummings, USA (Ret), a MOAA member, was on Capitol Hill for the House of Representatives bill signing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week, a celebration that came after years of work.
“Their legacy is now secured and recognized by our nation, with the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements,” said Cummings. “As a retired officer, I hope that the 6888th motivates the next generation of leaders and stimulates an interest in history to uncover the untold stories from diverse populations.”
[MOAA Changemakers: Edna Cummings]
The bill was led through Congress by Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.), along with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
“The Six Triple Eight was a trailblazing group of ‘sheroes,’” Moore said. “Facing both racism and sexism in a war zone, these women sorted millions of pieces of mail, closing massive mail backlogs and ensuring service members received letters from their loved ones. A Congressional Gold Medal is only fitting for these veterans who received little recognition for their service after returning home.”
Moran said the Gold Medal represents a grateful nation.
“Nearly 80 years after their service, we are finally able to recognize these extraordinary women for their service to our nation with the highest distinction Congress can bestow,” he said.
While the medal takes about a year to mint, the Military Women’s Memorial plans a “Six Triple Eight Day” in mid-June to present copies of the bill to family members. Individual state celebrations are also in the works.
Cummings is now working on a Six Triple Eight Scholarship with the Army Women’s Foundation and has agreed to serve as a historical adviser for a new 6888th musical by executive producer Blair Underwood, whose father was an Army colonel. She praised many individuals and groups who helped with the legislation and cites Master Gunnery Sgt. Joe Geeter, USMC (Ret), who led a Congressional Gold Medal effort for the Montford Point Marines, as her mentor.
“The team was a grassroots national effort from many organizations who obtained co-sponsors for the Senate and House bills, wrote letters of support, screened the documentary and shared the 6888th’s story,” Cummings said.
Judy Christie is an author based in Colorado.